More Than One Type of English Muffins
When I started searching for English muffin recipe, I realized there are many types of English muffin. Most of the bakers claim that theirs are the “original” or “traditional” recipe. I have not researched the history or origin of English muffins (even that is debatable), so I cannot say who is right. I just want to find that taste and texture that I like. In the beginning, I was quite satisfied with bready ones that are rolled flat, cut-out, and either baked or pan-fried. They are fluffy and light and suit Chinese palate. You can find one such recipe in my earlier post. However, my search for the recipe that yields McDonald’s style breakfast muffins – heavy, chewy, and holey, went on.
Alton Brown’s English Muffin Recipe
I eyed Alton Brown’s recipe for a long time but because I did not have muffin rings and an ice-cream scoop, and I could not find a way to adapt, I delayed trying it out.
A few months ago, I bought a box of fresh wheat gluten to supplement my protein-deficient flour for my no-knead artisan bread recipe, and I realized I cannot resist duplicating that same chewy texture for my desired holey and chewy English muffins. And so I bought 4 muffin rings and an ice-cream scoop, all set to try out Alton Brown’s recipe.
I have no regrets except that I should have done that earlier.
Add Baking Soda?
There are suggestions by English muffin fans like myself to tweak Alton Brown’s recipe by adding baking soda (which is pure bicarbonate of soda; not baking powder) to the risen dough, just before pan-frying. I tried that. The intended effect of more holey muffins was not spectacular enough to justify the bitter (alkaline) taste of soda. In case the flour (All-purpose, bread flour, high-protein flour, etc) you are using has less than 13.5% protein, you can try adding 1tbs of wheat gluten for every cup of flour used. You will see the effect of more holey muffins without compromising the taste, plus you get extra bounce and chewiness.
My English Muffin Recipe Variation
- I use full-fat goat milk instead of fat-free cow milk. Goat milk is sweetish, so I do away with the 1tbs sugar required in the original recipe.
- Because I use full-fat milk, the addition of butter becomes optional. With or without tastes as good.
- I add flaxmeal to the flour for added fiber and texture.
- I increase all measurements by 50%, using 3 cups instead of 2 cups of flour.
- I decide to use 3 tsp of instant yeast, because I am not sure how much is Brown’s “1 envelope dry yeast”.
- The proving time is 1-1/2 hr instead of the suggested 30 min.
- I use taller metal rings (dia 3″, 8cm; height 1.5″, 3.8cm).
1 hr 30 min (varies with brand of yeast and climate)
5-6 min each muffin side (total time varies with the number of muffins fried per batch)
E.g. 16 muffins fried in 4 batches takes about 48 min
16 large English muffins (3″ wide, 1.5″ tall) ; 22 – 24 shorter ones (1″ tall)
Play around with the amount of liquid to use. More liquid means heavier and more bouncy muffins; less liquid makes lighter ones. For wetter dough, scoop less dough into each ring and make shorter muffins (1″) to prevent gummy centers. If the dough is strong, meaning the gluten content is sufficient and that you did not over-prove it (dough must not collapse before frying), then either wet or dry option yields equally satisfying holey texture.
Fire and Temperature
If you are like me, who want tall AND high bounce muffins, you will have to work harder in controlling the fire. The initial loading temperature has to be higher to boost the initial rise. After 2 minutes or so, you can lower the heat to cook the thick center without burning the surface. I cannot advice this in terms of temperature because I use gas fire instead of electric griddle.
The dough is easily mixed by hand using a plastic spatula.
In order to establish your ideal proving time, watch the expansion of your dough from 30 min – 1 hr 30 min (or beyond if necessary). The whole idea is to see the volume double (or triple) but not let it over-prove and collapse. It does not need to reach the “maximum” volume because if you are frying the muffins in batches, there is ample time for further proving. To keep the dough going strong (not collapsing) while frying in batches, always fold in the sides of the remaining dough to form a round dough. This prevents carbon dioxide that is produced by the yeast, which lifts the dough, from being lost to the air.
Muffin Size (Height)
Assuming you use the standard 3″ diameter rings, you can vary the height of your muffins by controlling the amount of dough you scoop. My heaping scoop (size # unknown) yields 1.5″ tall muffins; level scoop yields 1″ height. It seems easier to achieve more holey center with the 1″ height. It is also easier to ensure that the center is cooked and not gummy with the thinner dough. So for beginners, build your confidence with shorter muffins first. They are great for making the McDonald’s styled sausage-egg-cheese breakfast sandwich. The thicker ones are best eaten in halves, with thick butter, egg Benedict, home-made jams, or with the popular Peranakan coconut-egg paste – Kaya!
Watch the following video for steps from post proving to finished product. Enjoy!